Collins Dismayed At "Colorless" Witness List

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Former Congresswoman Cardiss Collins, who chaired the Nielsen-created Indpendent Task Force on Television Measurement, says she is "dismayed" that there are no minorities among the six scheduled witnesses for a Wednesday hearing on a proposed TV ratings bill.

“I find it hard to believe that the Senate would hold a hearing regarding fairness in ratings without receiving testimony from at least one person of color," said Collins, "especially since this legislation would negatively impact minority communities and is purportedly designed to protect them. Clearly, this panel is not representative of the changing demographics of America.”

Collins, speaking for the task force, last week came out strongly against legislation.

The witnesses are George Ivie, executive director and CEO of the Media Rating Council; Susan whiting, president and CEO, Nielsen Media Research; Ceril Shagrin, executive VP for research at Univision; Pat Mullen, CEO, Tribune Broadcasting; Kathy Crawford, president, local broadcast, MindShare Worldwide; and Gale Metzger, former CEO, SMART Media. 

“In our effort give the Senate the best expert testimony necessary to evaluate the FAIR Ratings bill, we have invited a number of people to testify in tomorrow’s hearing,” said Senator Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), who introduced the bill and called the hearing.  “Included are experts on TV ratings research and measurement, and a representative from Univision will testify on the measurement of minority populations." I have worked on this issue for some time now, and the fact that this new ratings system does not accurately count minority populations is one of my main concerns, and I will be looking to our witnesses tomorrow to speak to these concerns.”

The so-called FAIR Ratings Act would require TV ratings systems or changes to those systems, be pre-approved by the client-backed, government-created Media Rating Council. It would also attempt to mandate the fairness of the ratings and require the council to report on its success to the FTC, FCC, and Congress.

The bill was prompted by complaints, most vocally by Fox, about Nielsen's roll-out of Local People Meters in major markets.

The meters produced declines in some broadcast station minority and younger-demo ratings, including notably Fox in top market New York, while showing gains for some cable nets.

Critics claimed the system had too many bugs to be the currency for local ad sales, while Nielsen and its backers said the system, though still needing work, was more accurately reflecting changes in viewing habits.

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